Salvation with Dinner on the Side

There are people who are ‘keys’ to winning others to Christ.  The woman at the well was one of these keys – she brought her city to meet Jesus.  It seems that we have also found a key in our area – Franco.  Ever since he got saved, he has been continuing with the discipleship course, has been out soulwinning with me, and tries his best to arrange opportunities for me to witness to others.

Yesterday some of his family members came to Arica to visit him: his daughter, younger son, a few nieces, a nephew, and a friend.  Because Franco doesn’t have a kitchen in his apartment, we offered to cook for his visitors.  We had hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill!  After everything was done cooking, we all sat around the table and began eating.  About half-way through the meal, Franco began telling his story to them of how he got saved.  He finished by saying, “And now Pastor will tell you how you can be saved, too.”  It was so sudden that I had to wait a few seconds to finish the bite of hot dog that I had just taken, but after a few seconds, I asked them ‘The Question’.

All of them replied that they were not sure that they would go to heaven.  I explained to them the idea of free forgiveness and they were all very happy to accept it.  We prayed right there sitting at the dinner table.  It is amazing how ‘key’ Franco has been in seeing many of his family members saved.  In addition to these that I just mentioned, he has helped with the salvation of his older son, 3 of his son’s friends, his brother, his sister-in-law, and several others that we have meet in town.  All that remains of his family to be saved is his wife.  She will hopefully be coming to visit in a few days.  Please be in prayer for her that God will prepare her heart to receive the message of the Gospel also.

Church Member Now Saved

A few months ago we were introduced to Karina.  She had been attending a church in Tacna, PERU, but livid in Arica, CHILE.  She was so excited that we were going to be starting a church in Arica!  She told us to let her know when we started so that she could attend.  True to her word, she came to the Christmas service a few weeks ago.  She also sand that she was interested in the discipleship course that we offer.

This last Wednesday we were finally able to line up the time and day and Josiah and I went to study step #1 – Salvation.  Her sister, who has been a member of the church in Tacna, PERU, for 7 years, was visiting this day and was also excited to attend the class.  We studied several aspects about salvation: what it is called, how you get it, and how long it lasts.

After finishing the study, I asked her to tell me about the time when she got saved.  She answered that she has “received the Lord” about 2 years ago in a church in central Chile.  That phrase caught my attention because it is generally what the evangelical churches use to describe the time that they dedicate themselves to obeying the Bible.  Right then we put the conversation in reverse and I asked her ‘The Question’ to which she replied that she wasn’t sure if she would go to heaven.  Right down the Roman’s Road we went and she accepted the free forgiveness that Jesus offers.  At some point in the presentation of the Gospel, she told me that she had never understood that our forgiveness is completely free and without strings attached.  She had always thought that one had to somehow do something to earn his forgiveness.  This little book has helped me to understand that the only thing that I can do to get saved is accept what Jesus has already done for me.  Thank you, she said, for taking the time to come and study with me.  I’ll see you Sunday!

A Trip to the Hospital

The other day we were finishing up some work when our neighbor, Amari, walked up to our front door holding bloody hands.  She had been washing a glass cup that was chipped on the brim and had sliced the area between her thumb and index finger.  She was quite scared because she had no idea what to do.  Sandra got me some paper towels and I put them on the cut and then applied pressure.  After holding it there for about a minute, I had her to continue while we got what we needed together to run to the hospital. Amari, Franco, Sergio (Franco’s son), and I got into the truck and zoomed to the hospital.

I dropped them all off at the front entrance and then circled back around to find a place to park.  There is no parking provided at the hospital, and it is located in one of the busiest areas in town, making parking a very difficult situation.  Finally, I found a spot, parked the truck, and then headed over to the hospital to join with the others.  They had registered her with the front counter and were now waiting for her to be called.  She was still holding the same bloodied paper towels.

After about a half-hour of waiting, I asked the front desk (who was just a lady with a notebook sitting behind a folding table) how much longer she had to wait.  She told me that there were people who had been waiting since 11:00 that morning, and it was now about 5:00 in the afternoon!  Turns out that she had forgotten to write her name in the book, so now everyone that had come in during the half-hour was now ahead of us in line.  After a bit of convincing, she wrote her name on a separate piece of scrap paper and then disappeared behind the doors.  About 5 minutes later, Amari was called.

They took her and 3 others to one of the side rooms to collect financial and personal information, and traded her paper towels with a formal bandage, but still didn’t begin the treatment of cleaning and stitches.  They then sent her back out to wait until her name was called again.

We all went outside so we could wait in the fresh air.  Franco and Sergio excused themselves so they could go buy something to eat, leaving me with an opportunity to ask Amari ‘The Question’.  She responded that she probably wouldn’t be going to heaven.  She already believed in God and the Bible, but was knew that she was not living in accordance to what the Bible teaches.  The funny thing is that she is the type of person that would probably not give us the time of day if she were not in the exact situation that she was currently in.  After explaining how free forgiveness works, I asked her if she wanted to receive it.  The enthusiastically replied, ‘Yes!’

We still had a few hours of waiting ahead, but at least now we could see the reason that all this happened.  Franco told me that he had noticed that many of the people that we were seeing saved, including himself, had to pass through a difficulty so that they would be open to hearing the Gospel.  “I wish that all that had to happen to me was a trip to the hospital.  I would rather have received 1,000 cuts like Amari did rather than go through what I had to.  However, I’m glad that God saved me.”

Christmas Cookies

One of the neat things about our ministry here in Chile is that we bring some new/foreign ideas to the people here.  One of our family Christmas traditions is making decorated gingerbread cookies.  In the States this is pretty normal, but here it is almost unheard of.  I don’t remember exactly how the conversation started, but some of the ladies that were at the Christmas service found out that Sandra knows how to make gingerbread cookies, and were asking if they could come back to our house sometime so Sandra could teach them.

A few days later 2 of the ladies came to the house and the gingerbread making began.  From 3PM to 10PM we were making cookie dough, cutting them out, baking them, decorating them, and of course sampling them.  The kids had such a good time, and Sandra was able to share some influence.  I am always happy for the times that she is able to play an active part in the ministry here.  She may not be able to go out door-2-door soulwinning, but she does have an influence on the people that we are working with.

At the end of the day everyone was able to take several decorated gingerbread cookies home, and our hearts are now a little closer-knit.  Please pray for us that our efforts will be multiplied in the hearts of those whom we minister to here in northern Chile.

Christmas Church Service

Last Sunday (20th of December) we hosted the very first service for the new church plant here in Arica.  We had been working with several families over the past few months, and had decided that it would be a good idea to try to get everyone together for a Christmas service.  The people seemed to think that it was a good idea also, because each one that we talked to about it pitched in their ideas about what to eat, or what to do.  Everyone was genuinely excited!

In this Christmas service there would be preaching, singing, eating, and games.  For the food we decided to ask people to bring some sort of Chilean salad, and we would provide the main course – anticuchos (shish kabobs).  The day before the service, we drove all over town picking up the necessary things, and doing some last minute practicing for the Christmas hymns and special music Sandra and I would sing, and preparing the area that we would be using for the service.  We were all very excited about the service.

Noon on Sunday finally came, and with it people started to show up, however very slowly.  It has to be a latin-american thing to be late, but I think we are finally getting used to it.  At about 1:30 everyone had arrived.  It all there were 21 people (including our family) that came to the meeting!  When the last ones arrived, we got everyone together and began.  I opened with a greeting and then prayer.  I played the guitar while we all sang a Christmas hymn, or tried to at least.  Not only was it a new song to almost everyone there, but I couldn’t get my voice on the same key as the guitar.  But after a few train wrecks, we finally it got going.  I don’t know exactly why, but I was so nervous.  Sandra noticed that and tossed me an encouraging word, “Don’t be nervous.”  But when it was her turn to come up and sing a special with me, we were both just as nervous.  Again, I’m not sure why, but it turned out alright.  Something that was quite funny was that I had picked out 5 Christmas hymns, and by the time that we finished with the fourth one I was ready to shift gears into the message because almost no one knew the songs.  But just as I told everyone that we were going to put away our song sheets, one of the ladies raised her hand and asked if we could sing the last song because it was the only one that they all knew, and I almost skipped it!  We all sang and everyone enjoyed the song – Silent Night.

After the singing, I opened my Bible to John 3:16 and spoke about the greatest gift ever given, Jesus.  The general idea of the message is that for thousands of years people would die.  Good, bad, old, and young alike, death was our common end, but when Jesus came he offered eternal life through the forgiveness of sin.  He told Martha after Lazarus’ death that “he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.”  God’s gift to the human race, eternal life!  We had already been working with most of the people who were there, and had already led all but 2 of them to Christ.  Because of that we talked about the 2-fold gift – eternal life and abundant life.  There was no one saved at the service, but there was a good response to the message.  After the service was over, I approached one of the ladies whose salvation I wasn’t sure of and asked her if she knew that she would be going to heaven when she died like we talked about in the message.  “O, yes, pastor!” she said, and then told us how she had been saved 6 years earlier in Bolivia.  It is good to know that there are others around the world who are leading people to Jesus also!

After the service was over, we changed the setup of the chairs to include tables, and then began the cooking and arranging of salads, cake, and refreshments.  Everyone pitched in to do their part.  It is always so exciting to see everyone working together in a church setting!  The kids played while the meat was cooking, and then when it was all ready we gave thanks and ate.  It was a wonderful time.

To finish off the day, we played a few games, one ‘get to know you’ game and then some Christmas Bible trivia.  As a whole the service went very well.  People were asking when we were going to start the church services regularly.  We are now starting to look for a more central place that we can rent so we can begin our services.  Please pray for us that we will be able to find something suitable and affordable.

All in all everyone really enjoyed the day.  I can hardly wait to get everyone back together again, but this time with the ones who we’ve been working with but that couldn’t come to this event.  Please continue to pray for our family and work here.

Eduardo and Maria

About 2 months ago I began working with a young man named Eduardo.  He and his wife, Maria, bad been having some difficulties, and were therefore open to talk.  It’s amazing to me how often God uses times of difficulty to draw us closer to Him.

The first night that I met Eduardo, we talked about the problem that was going on in his family, and also presented a solution – the marriage triangle.  I explained to him that if he wanted to get closer to his wife, he would first have to get closer to God.  “How do I do that?” he said.  From there it was fairly simple to lead him to Christ.

He immediately began discipleship, and consistently met with me each week.  After learning about Biblical baptism, he wanted to do it right away.  So one Saturday he met us at the beach and his wife and son came to watch his baptism.  I had not yet met Maria and had not had an opportunity to witness to her.  On the beach we explained again to everyone exactly what Biblical baptism was, and then Eduardo and I went into the ocean far enough to get him all the way under.  Timing it with the waves was interesting, but it worked.  When we came back to the group an the beach we presented Eduardo with a BEAMS Bible, and then began witnessing to Maria.  She also accepted Christ as her Savior!

We continued the discipleship course as before, but now Maria was joining in.  It was wonderful to watch her grow as her husband explained Biblical truths to her that I had only recently taught him.  Then last week, after studying about what a Biblical church was, she told we that she been thought through the idea of baptism and was convinced that she needed to do it.

Last Saturday afternoon we all met again at the beach in the same place that Eduardo got baptized and helped Maria to follow her husband in believer’s baptism.  Afterwards we presented her BEAMS Bible.  For the next few hours we talked while the kids played in the waves.  What a blessing to have a free, warm-water baptistery!

God is blessing our efforts here in Arica.  Thank you for continuing to pray for us.  Like with anything, there are good days and bad days, but in 100 years, only what we have done for Christ will matter.  I’m so glad that we have the opportunity to serve.

Black Friday

Black Friday for us was much different than it was for many people.  Thanksgiving evening was spent visiting with a Chilean Christian family.  They had asked us earlier in the day if they could come over and talk about some things that they wanted some counsel on.  The visit lasted until late in the evening, so Black Friday morning was spent sleeping in, instead of in a line waiting for some store to open.  Even Elisha, who generally wakes up around 7:00 AM, slept until after 11:00 AM.  That never happens!

A little after I had woken up, I received a call from a friend who was stuck down town with a car that wouldn’t start.  I went to go help them to pull their car to the mechanic.  I was so happy because this time my truck was at the front end of the rope, and not the back!  Needless to say, we have had to have our truck pulled several times since being here.

Soon after I returned home, Lily and I had to rush over to the dentist for her monthly tightening of her braces.  When she was finished we ran a few errands and then rushed home for dinner – leftover Thanksgiving dinner!

After dinner I had to hurry and finish printing the discipleship booklets that we needed for the classes that evening.  Josiah and I took Franco and his brother with us into town, and as we drove both Franco and I witnessed to his brother.  We had just finished presenting the Gospel and drawing the net as we arrived at our destination-the place in the road where I first met Franco.  We prayed right there in the truck.  After we finished, Franco was so happy that his brother, who he had been praying for and witnessing to over the phone, was now saved.

We dropped Franco and Ruben off, and continued to our first discipleship class.  It was sweet to see Eduardo (who has been saved for 2 months now) re-read the booklets with his wife, Maria, who only recently has gotten saved.  It is wonderful to see the Lord working in their lives.  After we finished there, we drove to a nearby neighborhood where our second meeting was.  Catalina and her son Diego have both recently gotten saved and have begun discipleship.  We finished there at 11:00 PM, and then headed to our last class.  Cristian and Marisa, who have also recently gotten saved, can only study late at night because of his work schedule.  We enjoyed the time studying, and then started for home.

On the way have, Josiah told me that he should always go with me because each time that we have gone out someone has been saved.  I think his wanting to go again also might be influenced by the 2 cups of yoghurt, 2 pieces of Christmas bread, the cup of juice, 3 toy cars, playtime with the kids in the homes we visit, and staying out until 1:00 in the morning with dad.  In any case, I was glad to have his help and company.

Thanksgiving

People say that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, however I believe that they have it wrong.  For me, Thanksgiving takes the cake, or pie in our case.  We had an absolutely wonderful time this year.

We had been planning to go to Peru to celebrate with an American missionary, but because of a month-long strike at our civil registry, we were unable to cross the border.  Turns out that it was a good thing that we didn’t continue the plans for Peru because the border agency just happened to also be on strike just on Thanksgiving.

Instead, we decided to celebrate with another American family here in Arica – Jim and Melody Bjur.  They have been a tremendous blessing to us since we arrived here.  Sandra and Melody agreed to split the cooking so the job would be easier on everyone.

We ended up with cooking the turkey because the meal was going to be eaten at an home.  Thus began the hunt for the Thanksgiving bird.  We went to all the usual stores, but couldn’t find any whole turkeys.  Next we tried the major meat markets, but still nothing.  It was looking pretty hopeless, but we kept up the optimism.  Finally, after 2 weeks of searching, we found the only turkey in our region.  I called Sandra to tell her the good news, and suddenly I heard the kids erupt with cheers!  Franco, who had been with me on the hunt, said “What luck!”  That gave us a great opportunity to talk about how God has taken care of our family through the years.

When it was all said and done, we had enjoyed a tremendous meal.  Sandra stuffed the truly with anion, garlic, and lemon, and then we buttered, salted, and seasoned the outside.  Soon the entire house smelled just heavenly!  The turkey, mashed potatoes, candied yams, buttered corn, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, and that was just the beginning!  That was washed down with 3 types of tea, and home made apple cider.  I don’t think that anybody had room for desert, but we all ate it anyway.  Sandra made 2 pumpkin pies, chocolate pie, coconut cream pie, and a pecan pie!  It war almost too good to believe!

We are thankful for may things this year, not the least of which are you.  Thank you for your interest in our family and ministry.  May God bless you richly, the same way that you have been a blessing to us.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Friday night I had a discipleship class fall through.   It was now about 9:45 PM but I didn’t want to come home empty-handed, so I decided to go to the town center where I would be able to pass out tracts.

We have noticed that Arica seems to come to life when the sun goes down because there are always so many people just out and about.  This night was no different. There was some kind of festival that was just finishing up, so the center was loaded with people.   I was able to pass out quite I few tracts before I handed Eric one.

Eric caught my attention for several reasons:  he was alone, just sitting and not going anywhere, and still wearing his safety vest and hardhat.  Everybody else that I had given a tract to that night had no time to listen, but Eric had plenty of it.  He listened intently as I gave him the Gospel.   When I finished I asked him if he wanted to ask for this forgiveness.   He replied, “Obviously.”   We prayed right then in the middle of the downtown plaza.

When I asked for his information so I could follow up with him, he told me that he lives in Bolivia and only works in Chile during the week.   He only has a few minutes each Friday after work before his ride to Bolivia picks him up. I just happened to find him in the right place at the right time, and all because my plans for discipleship with another family fell through.  I guess the lesson here is to be flexible.